COLM O'REGAN: Sometimes life just imitates art

Sometimes life just imitates art. The art was the Tea Master episode of Father Ted when Ted gives Mrs Doyle an automated tea-maker.

And life was me struggling with the Bosch Tassimo Coffee Maker. But it does tea as well. Although I get the feeling that using the Tassimo to make tea is a bit like using your iPad as a placemat. You’d be better off with a placemat.

We were staying in an old country house. You know one of those ones where you find yourself uttering the sentence “Now, say what you like about the British but ...” before going on to justify the universal land-theft during the 800 years because they were lovely landscapers, in fairness to them.

This was a swanky place which didn’t have a kettle. It had a Tassimo.

Don’t judge me. I haven’t forgotten my roots. We had a voucher. Which is a great way of spying on our betters and reporting back to you lot, with your Billy Book Cases and Aldi Yankee Candles and kettles.

The Tassimo had two pages of instructions on how to use it. It warned me to only use T-disc beverages. I hate the word beverage for some reason.

Dislike was soon replaced with paralysis. I froze in front of the Massimo. There were so many words to be read before I could get a cup of tea. Snippets of sentences swam before my eyes. “Select a T-disc beverage ... when the T-disc has been detected … wait until the status LED cupsign is illuminated …. Press the + and – signs … to brew your beverage with the recommended settings as defined in the T disc bar code.”

I think my slowness was my brain was screaming “THIS WOULD BE EASIER WITH A KETTLE AND A TEA BAG” and refusing to engage. It’s just an example of how swanky doesn’t make you happy. It complicates things. And it leads to over-design. The Massimo is a beautiful thing but it can’t be a kettle because a kettle isn’t swanky enough, but all I want is a kettle.

I find the same with lights in hotel rooms.

The swankier the hotel, the harder it is to switch on the lights. You have to wave your hands or whisper and even then the light that comes on isn’t the one you expect. It’s as if the only scenario they usability-tested it for was how to turn on the light when there is someone in your room to assassinate you.

The light is so unexpected it surprises the assassin and buys you enough time to escape.

Showers are another terrible design black-hole. Or maybe the shower changes behaviour after it starts being used so there’s no point in putting instructions on it.

In any given shower there is only a 50/50 chance you know what’s going on. Even if there’s only two nobs.

My latest business idea is a waterproof vinyl sticker that you can put on the tiles near a shower which tells you exactly how it works now, based on experience.

You compose the text yourself and then order it. It would have sentences like:

THE UPPER NOB DOES THE TEMPERATURE, DON’T TWIST IT TOO FAR OR YOU WILL SCALD THE MOLES OFF YOURSELF.

In fairness to designers, it’s is a two-way street. The user — ok me — has to have a bit of cop on-too. It was only after three years that I realised the strange bit of metal next to the Lidl Breadslicing machine was for ‘sleeving’ the sliced pan in its wrapper.

It was a lifetime before I copped that the pointy thing on the lid of tubes of ointment was for piercing the film of the ointment.

So I’m thick. So just give me the kettle for my tea.

It’s all I can master.

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